With life on Navy submarines ahead, Reilly getting in as many golf swings as possible

Peter Reilly was in Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend, wrapping up his collegiate golfing career for the Naval Academy at the NCAA Midwest Regionals.

He would have loved to have seen his team advance to the national championships, but he knew what the odds were long before the 13-team event that included golf powers USC, Oregon, Baylor and TCU.

He was right. Navy wound up dead last in Ann Arbor, but Reilly got better with each round, going from a 10-over 81 on Thursday to a 76 on Friday and 73 in Saturday’s final round. He posted the second best score on his team.

But Reilly – who grew up in Merrimack, led Bishop Guertin to the high school title five years ago and was one of the top young amateur golfers in the state – knows there will be times in the near future when the mere act of swinging a golf club will be impossible.

It’s tough to take a full swing on a submarine. Maybe, Reilly joked, he’ll still be able to putt.

Reilly, who said he may enter the New Hampshire Amateur Championship this summer, if he can squeeze it into his schedule, will spend the next year or so at Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C. He’ll spend 12-18 months becoming a Junior Submarine Officer.

Being a Division I college athlete at many schools can be all consuming, taking nearly as much time as classes and study. For Reilly, golf at the Naval Academy has been a welcome diversion, but never very high on the priority list.

He spent part of the summer after his freshman year learning to sail. He’s spent other summers on other vessels where playing golf wasn’t an option.

But when he does get to play he’s played well, including a senior year when he led his team in stroke average and to the Patriot League title.

“It’s been a good four years, a great ride,” said Reilly, who graduates from Annapolis on June 1 when he’ll be commissioned an Ensign. “Winning the Patriot League was awesome, a great way to finish.”

Reilly’s ability in the classroom and on the course put him on the 2012 Academic All Patriot League Golf Team, one of just five players selected. To be eligible, you need to have a grade point average of at least 3.2 and be a key contributor to a team.

He scored high in both categories. His 3.48 GPA puts him in the top 21 percent of his class and he recently won the McMurtry Award for the best honors history thesis.

On the course, his 75.1 average topped his team and was the fourth lowest at Navy in the last nine years. In 11 events, he had five top-10 finishes and four top-5s. He finished sixth individually at the league championships.

Reilly is committed to at least five more years in the Navy, and large chunks of that time will likely be spent under water.

“It’s a real close knit community,” Reilly said of life as a submarine officer. “The missions are interesting and can be exciting.”

A history major, Reilly is particularly interested in naval history. His senior thesis was on the First Barbary War, fought between 1801 and 1805 and pitting the United States fleet against pirate ships from the North African states of Morocco, Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli.

Over 200 years later, there are still pirates attacking merchant ships and Navy vessels out to stop them.

Reilly said golf was the perfect complement to life at a service academy.

“It was a huge positive,” Reilly said, “because of the close friendships with teammates.”

Two of those teammates, seniors Tyler Kuhn and Tim Shield, will be joining Reilly at Nuclear Power School in South Carolina this fall.

Reilly, who won both the New Hampshire Golf Association Junior Championship and NHIAA Individual title in 2007, has always been trying to qualify for something.

His next and biggest challenge will be to qualify as a submarine officer.